Does your child have a hard time doing their homework? When he or she gets home from school do they go straight toward a meltdown or an argument? Is getting them to sit down and find the calm and focus needed to do their homework a constant challenge? The transition from school to home can be really hard for children with ADHD.
ADHD affects your child’s ability to stay focused and listen for long periods of time, making it difficult for them to put maximum effort into their schoolwork. ADHD can also make your child more physically or mentally active than other kids in their class. This may appear to others as restlessness, talking too much, asking lots of questions, or being disruptive in class. Some children with ADHD may also have accompanying learning disabilities that make school harder for them. But just because your child is navigating school differently than other children doesn’t mean it has to be more difficult.
We have some tricks and tools to help your child transition from school to home with minimal meltdowns and maximum fun.
Creating Calm and Focus
Change the Game
ADHD children are dopamine driven. What does this mean? Their brains work differently than their classmates. This may mean you need to change your game plan to help support your child. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter and is known as the “feel good” hormone. It gives you a sense of joy or pleasure. Dopamine provides motivation to do something when the hormone is flooded through the brain. Making dopamine a part of your reward system can help your child learn to work with your brain, not against it.
Have a Snack
Did you know that there are certain foods that can help to boost dopamine in the brain? Help boost your child’s dopamine by enjoying a snack before they start homework. Foods that tend to increase the body’s dopamine levels are almonds, apples, bananas, and animal products or protein. Having a snack like apples and peanut butter, a banana, or chips and guacamole can help your child to nourish themselves and fuel their brain.
Make sure to allow your child time to decompress after school. Children with ADHD can have a difficult time being too overloaded with sensory input. Let your child reset before diving straight into homework. A break can look like resting, watching an episode of their favorite show, going for a walk, or doing a small and simple craft to stimulate them in a different way.
Make it Manageable
Break up your child’s study or homework time into manageable chunks. Take homework one thing at a time and use rewards like an extra screentime or time with their friends. Giving your child something to work toward will help them focus and give them that dopamine boost that their brain needs. This work and reward pattern will help children with ADHD learn to work with their brain not against it. Help encourage your child to avoid becoming overwhelmed and enjoy learning by breaking up study time into smaller chunks that they are able to process, achieve, and manage.
Children on the autism spectrum struggle with emotional regulation. Interacting through physical activity can help your child get in touch with feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, or other big emotions in the body. Letting them move through and process these emotions in a safe way will help them to build confidence.
Set Aside a Space for Homework
Make a space that is specifically for homework and studying. If this isn’t possible, clear a space like a kitchen table or countertop. Make sure that there are minimal distractions. For some children, this might mean that being in front of a window or mirror provides too many visual distractions, for others that may be just the right amount of stimuli for their brain. You know your child’s window of tolerance for being overstimulated or overly distracted by their environment. You may need to play around with this and see what works. See what works best and provide a space for your child to be able to concentrate.
Using these tools to customize a routine for your child will prepare them to understand the expectations once returning home from school and will limit the number of meltdowns, tantrums, or fights with your child once the topic of homework is brought up. Remember they have been working hard all day in school and the thought of doing more work or at-home assignments doesn’t sound fun to them, or their brain. This may seem like a no-brainer, but for children with ADHD creating a routine centered around fun, dopamine boosts, and minimal distractions will help your child succeed. Customizing a routine that is centered around fun will help both of you.
Another way you can help your child transition from school to home is to change or put on clothing that is more comfortable and less stimulating. Perhaps your child has to wear a school uniform that is for them, not comfortable and very over stimulating. Choosing clothes that are seamless will offer minimal distractions and help them achieve success in school.
Above all else, be patient with your child. In addition to everything they are learning in school, your child is also learning how to work with their brain. Being patient with your child will allow them to feel safe enough to fail and try again. Patience can also help your child to feel safe, calm, and in control of their ability to focus.
With a little planning, your child can handle daily transitions from school, to homework, to bedtime seamlessly this school year.